My friend David is a Warriors aficionado. He has been a devotee of the Golden State Warriors since 1975, when he watched a team with no superstars who epitomized everything that was right about sports. He loved Al “The Destroyer” Attles, the only coach in the NBA who was both strong and patient enough to deal with Rick Barry (he of the bottomless pit of ego).
The Warriors are nearing the half-way point of the 2014-15 season, having just won their 34th game out of 40. 34-6. To give some context, the Warriors won fewer than 40 games in 16 of the 18 seasons between 1994-95 and 2012-13. Last year’s 51-win team was only the 5th Warriors squad to achieve the 50-win mark in franchise history, which dates back to the 72-game schedule seasons of the early 1950s. One more win and they’d be on pace to win 70 games. The Warriors are a perfect 13-0 against the East, and 19-1 at the Oracle.
After busting out in November and December, winning 23 of their first 26 games, they dropped two in a row (an inexplicable second-game-of-a-back-to-back no-show loss to the Lakers after a Christmas Day loss to the Clippers in LA). Since that holiday loss, they’ve been on an absolute rampage, winning 11 of 12. During this stretch of dominance, Golden State has simply torched the competition.
Margins of victory: 13, 40, 21 (the Toronto game on January 2nd), 26, 15, 18, 11, 15, 25, 43. The only loss came at Oklahoma City, where Steve Kerr rested Bogut and Iguodala. These insanely lopsided wins have come since David Lee returned to action, averaging 10 ppg in 19 min. But it’s the absence of Lee in the starting five that has the Warriors playing arguably the best defense in the NBA. Draymond Green’s sensational versatility and instincts. Shaun Livingston’s length. Bogut and Iguodala with their uncanny ability for throwing opponents out of whack. Opponents are shooting a league-low 42.1% from the floor. The Warriors are holding teams to the 3rd-lowest 3-PT % against (31.7%).
For the analytically-inclined, their effective field goal percentage is a whopping .546. Only the LeBron-led Heat of the previous two seasons have had higher team eFG% in the last (I stopped checking after five years, as the league-wide FG% has risen over the past two decades. This year’s Warriors are averaging a ridiculous 27 assists per game.
The Draymond Green explosion has been in full effect for a while now. As Jonathan Tjarks notes, the Four-Out Revolution has, indeed, been televised. The modern NBA is a place where stretch power forwards abound, and point guards glide into the paint with ease, making split-second decisions to whip the ball over-their-shoulders, or high off the glass over outstretched arms. Steph Curry and Kyle Lowry are two of those roundball maestros.
My friend David and I went to see the Warriors and Raptors a couple of weeks ago. Since I moved to the East Bay this summer, where these Warriors reside, I haven’t had the lovely impromptu conversations with my Warriors-obsessed friend that I’d gotten used to. I hadn’t been to a game here this year either. As you might imagine, getting tickets ain’t easy right now.
This Year’s Warriors and the 2007-08 Celtics
This season is reminiscent of the 2007-08 Celtics season. The arrival of KG and Ray leading to 66 wins and a championship banner that the new generation of Celtics fans so desperately craved, thriving off of a defense that crushed the wills of opposing scorers. Bogut’s interior physicality might be likened to a healthy and then-physically dominant Kendrick Perkins. Draymond Green and Kevin Garnett have a similar internal fire that triggers the best in their teammates. Klay Thompson blankets scorers the way that Pierce does. The five teammates rotate as if on a string, communicating at all times.
This year has a similarly magical quality to it for these Warriors. After 36 games, the Warriors had a +400 point differential. Of the 14 teams to start the season that spectacularly, 10 of them have gone on to win the title (thanks, Curtis Harris). One of those teams is the 2007-08 Celtics. Unlike those Celtics, these Warriors will have to contend with three rounds of insanely high-quality competition just to make the NBA Finals. But before we fast-forward to mid-April and the highly anticipated Western Conference First Round Collisions, let’s appreciate what it’s like to be in Oracle Arena these days.
Toronto came into the game leading the Eastern Conference with a 24-8 record, but starting to feel the impact of the west coast road trip they were in the middle of.
40 Golden State points. A barrage of threes. Non-stop ball movement. 7 Seconds Or Less. (How have I still not read that book? Sorry, Jack McCallum)
Warriors 66, Raptors 61.
Curry 14 points, 8 assists (accounting for 33 of his team’s points)
Lowry 17 points, 6 assists (accounting for 32 of his team’s points)
The two all-world point guards were ferocious from the opening tip. One-upping each other throughout the half. Lowry is forced to bear too much of the burden with wing DeMar DeRozan on the sidelines. Lowry appears to be on a mission to prove the All-Star voters from last year wrong. What a penetrating force he is. Steph simply continues to take whatever the defense gives him and use his insane range and hair-trigger release to his great advantage, finding creases in the defense off the dribble.
Third Quarter Insanity
The Raptors defense has been leaky at times this year, which was masked by the weaker competition they faced early in the season. Golden State snuffed out any Raptors hopes during the first six minutes after halftime. The Warriors poured in 21 points in the first 5:47 of the period.
A five-point lead (66-61) ballooned to 21 (87-66) in what felt like a few minutes. Klay Thompson triples bookended the run. In between, the Raptors were blocked (three times), stolen (twice), threw the ball away, and committed several offensive fouls, as well as receiving a shot-clock violation. It was like a wrecking ball descended on Toronto’s offense. Nothing worked and the game fell apart at the seams.
Suffocating Warrior defense + transition offense = standing fucking ovations.
Third quarter standing ovations.
Game #32! of an 82-game regular season standing ovations.
Oh and Draymond? Messed around and got a triple-double. 16 points, 13 assists!, 11 rebounds, 2 steals, 2 blocks. Ethan Sherwood Strauss recently wrote about the prospect of Draymond getting a max-contract offer. Strauss was following up on former coach and current ESPN commentator Jeff Van Gundy’s comments about the possibility of Green getting the maximum green.
It’s incredible what happens when all the pieces fit. When defensive genius is given its proper respect. Too often, where a player is drafted defines his NBA career. Sometimes, though, it provides extra motivation (stories of certain players memorizing each player drafted ahead of them, in order to prove something each night they face one of those one-time more desirable players.)
Draymond wasn’t supposed to be a starter, much less a potential franchise building-block. He was drafted after 34 other players were selected in the 2012 draft. His offensive numbers are less than remarkable. But the value he brings shows up in advanced stats like Real Plus-Minus. His defensive value shows up in blocks and steals, but the value of his ability to guard anyone and everyone on the floor (okay, 80% of NBA starters) is still impossible to quantify.
Forget the debate for now. Forget 70 wins. Just enjoy the pure ecstasy in Oakland. The Oracle earning its “Roar-acle” moniker. Energy is a funny thing. Once it starts flowing, it doesn’t want to stop. David brings positivity wherever he goes. It’s a contagious feeling, that kind of communal lift. The fans in Boston know what that can be like, when pandemonium becomes the only appropriate word. They know it in Oakland. April can’t get here fast enough. Or can it? Warriors fans have another 40 games to savor this remarkable season.
|12:00.0||Start of 3rd quarter|
|11:40.0||K. Lowry misses 2-pt shot from 11 ft||61-66|
|11:39.0||Offensive rebound by A. Johnson||61-66|
|11:25.0||A. Johnson misses 2-pt shot from 18 ft||61-66|
|11:24.0||61-66||Defensive rebound by D. Green|
|11:19.0||61-69||+3||K. Thompson makes 3-pt shot from 27 ft (assist by S. Curry)|
|11:02.0||T. Ross makes 2-pt shot from 1 ft (assist by K. Lowry)||+2||63-69|
|10:40.0||63-71||+2||D. Green makes 2-pt shot from 18 ft|
|10:18.0||T. Ross misses 3-pt shot from 25 ft||63-71|
|10:17.0||63-71||Defensive rebound by M. Speights|
|10:13.0||63-73||+2||K. Thompson makes 2-pt shot from 15 ft (assist by D. Green)|
|9:50.0||J. Valanciunas misses 2-pt shot from 6 ft (block by D. Green)||63-73|
|9:49.0||63-73||Defensive rebound by H. Barnes|
|9:45.0||63-73||H. Barnes misses 2-pt shot from 17 ft|
|9:44.0||63-73||Offensive rebound by M. Speights|
|9:44.0||63-73||M. Speights misses 2-pt shot from 1 ft|
|9:40.0||63-73||Offensive rebound by S. Curry|
|9:36.0||63-75||+2||M. Speights makes 2-pt shot from 2 ft (assist by H. Barnes)|
|9:35.0||Toronto full timeout||63-75|
|9:35.0||P. Patterson enters the game for J. Valanciunas||63-75|
|9:25.0||63-75||Personal foul by H. Barnes (drawn by L. Fields)|
|9:12.0||T. Ross misses 2-pt shot from 22 ft (block by K. Thompson)||63-75|
|9:11.0||Offensive rebound by Team||63-75|
|9:11.0||Turnover by Team (shot clock)||63-75|
|9:02.0||63-75||Offensive foul by D. Green (drawn by L. Fields)|
|9:02.0||63-75||Turnover by D. Green (offensive foul)|
|8:50.0||Turnover by A. Johnson (bad pass; steal by S. Curry)||63-75|
|8:45.0||63-75||M. Speights misses 2-pt shot from 2 ft|
|8:44.0||63-75||Offensive rebound by S. Curry|
|8:43.0||63-77||+2||S. Curry makes 2-pt shot from 1 ft|
|8:25.0||Turnover by K. Lowry (bad pass; steal by D. Green)||63-77|
|8:20.0||63-77||M. Speights misses 2-pt shot from 2 ft|
|8:19.0||63-77||Offensive rebound by M. Speights|
|8:19.0||63-79||+2||M. Speights makes 2-pt shot from 2 ft|
|8:02.0||Turnover by T. Ross (lost ball)||63-79|
|8:02.0||L. Williams enters the game for L. Fields||63-79|
|8:02.0||G. Vasquez enters the game for T. Ross||63-79|
|7:49.0||63-81||+2||M. Speights makes 2-pt shot from 15 ft (assist by D. Green)|
|7:31.0||K. Lowry misses 2-pt shot from 2 ft||63-81|
|7:30.0||63-81||Defensive rebound by K. Thompson|
|7:30.0||Personal foul by A. Johnson (drawn by K. Thompson)||63-81|
|7:20.0||63-83||+2||K. Thompson makes 2-pt shot from 17 ft|
|7:04.0||P. Patterson misses 2-pt shot from 3 ft (block by K. Thompson)||63-83|
|7:02.0||Offensive rebound by K. Lowry||63-83|
|6:56.0||Shooting foul by S. Curry (drawn by G. Vasquez)||63-83|
|6:56.0||G. Vasquez makes 3-pt shot from 25 ft (assist by P. Patterson)||+3||66-83|
|6:56.0||Technical foul by K. Lowry||66-83|
|6:56.0||66-84||+1||S. Curry makes technical free throw|
|6:56.0||G. Vasquez misses free throw 1 of 1||66-84|
|6:54.0||66-84||Defensive rebound by K. Thompson|
|6:37.0||66-84||Turnover by K. Thompson (bad pass; steal by A. Johnson)|
|6:23.0||K. Lowry misses 2-pt shot from 2 ft||66-84|
|6:22.0||66-84||Defensive rebound by D. Green|
|6:17.0||66-87||+3||K. Thompson makes 3-pt shot from 23 ft (assist by S. Curry)|
|6:13.0||Toronto full timeout|